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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Dynamics of violence in civil armed conflicts

Alternative title: Voldsdynamikk i interne væpnede konflikter

Awarded: NOK 3.3 mill.

Armed groups' use of various violent and nonviolent tactics, such as guerrilla attacks, attacks on civilians, and demonstrations, often varies considerably across time and space. This project explores this variation, with a particular focus on violence against civilians and non-violent actions. The project develops and tests theory on these issues using statistical analyses with global reach and in-depth case studies of the Maoist conflict in Nepal and the Sri Lankan Civil War. The studies are based on elite interviews in the two countries and three new, detailed datasets covering violent and non-violent events. One broader finding is that violence against civilians is largely strategic and closely related to military considerations. Based on data from Nepal, I develop theory about how government military attacks on insurgents can lead to increased local violence against civilians. Since insurgents usually hide, the authorities tend to use local informants to find and attack them. Government attacks therefore provide incentives for the rebels to punish suspected informants. In accordance with this, I find that government attacks increase the insurgents' violence against civilians, and especially against informants. Qualitative evidence also indicates that rebels use violence strategically to avoid information leaks. Another article investigates when and why rebels with territorial aspirations attack civilians outside their claimed territory. While previous theories point mainly to political motivations or weak leadership, I argue that military motivations play an important role. By attacking soft targets outside of their claimed territory, rebels may force the state to spread their resources and thus weaken their capacity to launch military offensives. Through statistical analyzes at the global level and from Sri Lanka, I show that government military offensives relate to increased violence outside the contested territory. Qualitative data from Sri Lanka further suggest that military considerations help explain this relationship. Another part of the project looks at armed rebels' use of nonviolent actions, such as strikes, demonstrations and blockades. In the first global statistical analysis of this question, we find that the use of such tactics is relatively widespread: About half of the rebel organizations made use of them during the study period. The analysis suggests that ideological, organizational as well as contextual factors influence where and when such tactics are used. Overall, we find that rebel nonviolent action becomes more likely when the rebels have a Marxist ideology, high mobilization capacity and military capacity, and when the government is unstable, fragmented, and not highly repressive. More generally, the studies indicate that armed groups often do not consider violent and non-violent tactics as competing, but as complementary. More research is needed to investigate how groups combine different tactics, however. The data developed in the project help make this possible.

Prosjektet har gitt betydelige forskningsmessige bidrag. De nye hendelsesdataene gir gode muligheter for analyser av taktiske valg. Teoretisk har prosjektet særlig bidratt med å forklare hvordan militære hensyn påvirker vold mot sivile. Artiklene gir også viktige empiriske bidrag gjennom statistiske og kvalitative analyser av vold mot sivile, bruk av ikkevoldelige taktikker og varighet av konflikt. Prosjektleder har utvidet sin kompetanse til nye tema i konfliktforskning og til borgerkrigen på Sri Lanka. I tillegg har han videreutviklet generelle ferdigheter innen analyse, prosjektstyring og formidling. Han har også utvidet sine nettverk, særlig ved University of Maryland og Universitetet i Oslo. Prosjektet har også bidratt til å spre kunnskap om vold og andre prosesser i borgerkrig til et bredere publikum gjennom aviskronikker og forelesninger. Denne kunnskapen kan bidra til økt politisk fokus på, og forståelse av, konfliktrelatert vold.

Rebel groups often employ a wide range of violent and nonviolent methods during armed conflicts, such as guerrilla attacks, violence against civilians, demonstrations and blockades. While these methods can be combined, their employment often varies considerably over time. This project looks at how various tactics are related to each other, and how we can explain the transition from one form and level of contestation to another. Our understanding of these questions is limited. Most previous studies either assume that violent and nonviolent actions belong on opposite ends of a conflict scale or analyze violence without considering its alternatives. In this postdoctoral project, violent and nonviolent actions are instead considered as forms of contestation that can be used in combination. The project explores not only which forms of contestation are used, but also how intensively they are applied. A central aim of the project is to develop and test theory addressing these questions. It does so through a mixed-methods research design that includes two conflicts in South Asia as well as global quantitative analyses. The cases are two prolonged civil wars: the Maoist conflict in Nepal and the Eelam conflict in Sri Lanka. For both cases, I will collect detailed events data on military and non-military actions, as well as qualitative data through elite interviews. The project addresses a central question within political science: why actors involved in a dispute sometimes make use of violence. It will also be of interest to international policymakers, since understanding why actors choose violent over nonviolent forms of contestation is essential to forming policies that help reduce conflict-related violence.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam